OK, I’ll admit it, inside I’m still twelve years old. I love big lumbering metal monsters that crash through brick walls and blast away with cannons and machine guns. Tanks rock. So with no further justification, here are five of the best tank museums in the world.
The Tank Museum, Bovington, United Kingdom
The British invented the tank in an attempt to break the deadlock of trench warfare during World War One, so it’s only appropriate that they boast the biggest tank museum in the world. Located in Dorset, this museum has the best collection of First World War tanks I’ve ever seen, including some one-of-a-kind models. The collections for other periods are excellent too, including the Interwar period, World War Two, and the Cold War. In all they have almost 300 armored vehicles from 26 countries.
Several of the tanks are in working order and there’s a track where they’re driven during the summer. This is the only place in the world where you can see the famous German Tiger I tank of WWII in full running order. There’s also an American M4 Sherman so you can see what the good guys were driving. Check the website for the next live demonstration.
The General George Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky, USA
A military genius, Patton realized that many old cavalry tactics could actually be used with modern armored vehicles. The results are history. This museum is dedicated to his memory and the development of the American tank. Not surprisingly, the WWII section is the best, but there are good collections for other periods as well. Some tanks have their sides cut away so you can see the cross-section and get an idea what it was like to be in one. There’s also an excellent exhibition on the man himself.
Deutsches Panzermuseum, Munster, Germany
I know someone is going to give me grief about this, but it’s undeniable that the Third Reich had one of the most advanced armies the world has ever seen, and the Panzers were its backbone. There are more than a hundred tanks and armored vehicles here, including some rare examples from World War One, the more familiar Panzers and Tigers of World War Two, and East German tanks dating to the Cold War. There’s also an exhibition exploring the career of the “Desert Fox”, General Erwin Rommel, and a massive collection of German firearms from both world wars.
Kubinka Tank Museum, Kubinka, Russian Federation
The Third Reich may have had a great military, but the Red Army crushed it, thanks in no small part to its huge number of mass-produced tanks. This museum in Kubinka, near Moscow, tells of their proud history. The main displays are of World War Two, including the famous T-34 that did so well against the Germans, and the tanks of the Soviet Union. Like the museum in Bovington, they claim to have the biggest collection in the world with more than 300 vehicles. I guess I’ll just have to go count them!
Le Musée des Blindés, Saumur, France
The French get a lot of unfair ribbing about their military. It’s often forgotten how well they fought in World War One and how they’re fighting the Taliban right now. An U.S. Army Ranger I met who served in Afghanistan says the French fight very well and we should appreciate what they’re doing. The history of French tanks is on display here in the historic town of Saumur, which also has a nice castle if you’re into more old-school militaria. More than 200 of their tanks and armored vehicles are in full operating condition and conduct an annual parade. Be sure to check out the curiosity room with its collection of experimental and unusual vehicles, like the Killer Vespa shown in the photo gallery.
Of course most national military museums have tank collections. The Imperial War Museum in London has some good ones, but it’s beaten by the excellent collection at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels.
Trivia question: How did tanks get their name? Tell us in the comments section. No prize, just bragging rights.